Saturday, August 29, 2020

Tattered Slippers Tour: THE MIDNIGHT SHOW RELEASE DAY! Feat. The Pros and Cons of Writing in the Jazz Age!


Hello, everyone! It's official: The Midnight Show is out in the world! I'm so excited that I get to share this book with y'all. As a reminder, if you purchase the book in paperback format today through the 31st and send a proof of purchase to, I'll send you a signed bookplate to go in the book!

(Side note: due to some technical issues — aka KDP not telling me that I needed larger bleeds on my pages until after I'd ordered two separate proof copies, what the pumpernickle — there may be a slight delay on paperback availability. They should be up by the end of today, if they aren't already. Thanks for your patience.)

Now, you know, stories don't come out of nowhere. For everything anyone ever writes, there's at least of a bit of a journey to get there. And today, I thought I'd share some of the story behind The Midnight Show in a somewhat . . . unusual . . . way. But first, a bit about the book, for those who are just getting here!

About . . .

The Midnight Show

This mystery is the case of his dreams — and her nightmares.

By day, Dayo Temitrope is a swinging singer, an up-and-coming star with a shining career ahead of her. By night, she’s . . . well, she’s not sure, but whatever she does leaves her every morning with sore feet and worn-out shoes. And after six months, she’s had enough.

Enter Bastian Dennell, a private investigator just trying to get by. When Dayo hires him to find out where she goes at night, he’s sure it’s his big break: his chance to establish himself and get the funds to pay off his family’s debt. Plus, he gets to work with his favorite singer, even if she isn’t exactly what he expected. What could be better?

But first he has to solve the case — which means navigating a tangled web of strange dreams, fair folk schemes, and show business. It will take all Bastian’s wits, along with the shining talents of Dayo herself, to figure out the truth before the curtains close for good on Dayo’s career.

A jazz-age-inspired twist on the Twelve Dancing Princesses from the author of Blood in the Snow.

Find it on: Amazon || Goodreads

The Tattered Slippers

The Tattered Slippers are six retellings of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairytale, each one fantastical and magical. You don't want to miss any of them! You can learn more about the books and find the full tour schedule on the tour page.

The Tattered Slippers are the result of the 2019 Arista Challenge. The Arista Challenge is hosted by Kendra E. Ardnek; it invites fairy tale authors to come together in community as they work on unique retellings of a selected fairy tale.

Pros and Cons of Writing in the Jazz Age

So there I was, halfway through May, with Hadestown in my headphones, a few characters niggling at the back of my mind, and an unexpected surplus of time on my hands. The Tattered Slippers group reveal was creeping ever closer, and Kendra was keeping the Love and Memory alpha chat buzzing with cryptic comments about her excitement for the lineup and teasing me with the promise that she’d accept a late entry if I sent one in. I’d planned to sign on for the release, but Blood in the Soil (or possibly Blood in the Earth) was fighting me on every page, and I knew — had known for months — that I had no chance to whip it into shape by the release. I thought that was that.

But there were those characters — ! A private investigator with a heart of gold who tried to hide his feelings under a callously professional demeanor and a jazz singer whose sunny smiles masked an ever-growing desire to just be left alone when she was off the stage. They’d been born as alternate universe versions of major characters from another Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling, but they’d become their own people while I wasn’t looking. And they wouldn’t leave me alone! 

There was clearly nothing else for it. I had to write the story. I set a goal for myself: I’d make the most detailed outline I’d made in years, then write like mad to have the book finished by the beginning of June. It was crazy — but it was a novella, nothing more. Perhaps even a novelette. And, anyway, compared to ancient Asia, how hard could it be to write a Jazz Age-inspired story? 

Headphones on. Writing music playing. I was about to find out the answer.

Pro: The soundtrack is an absolute bop.

I’m used to hard-line definition between writing music and for-fun music. Writing music is instrumentals: Lindesey Stirling, Two Steps from Hell, Brunuhville, Brandon Fiechter, soundtracks, the works. If it’s not instrumentals, it’s Kalafina or Korean folk and the lyrics are all in a language I don’t know two words in. It’s inspiring. It’s non-distracting. It also all sounds the same after a while. 

Now? I had jazz. I had swing. I had electro-swing. It was, as I said, an absolute bop and a much-needed change of pace. However, there was also an unexpected downside . . .

Con: You will have “Swinging on a Star” and “I Found My Yellow Basket” stuck in your head for weeks solid, and nothing will dislodge them.

Despite Ella Fitzgerald's refusal to stop singing in the back of my head, though, I made good progress. I had my story well outlined, my characters profiled, my world built. I had written enough of the story that I could secure a last-minute entry into the Tattered Slippers group, and my characters were, astonishingly enough, cooperating. I’d also discovered another advantage of my chosen era.

Pro: Research is so astonishingly easy.

I’d spent the last year writing in an ancient Asia-inspired world, where getting the answer to any historically-based worldbuilding question was almost guaranteed to take significant effort wading through irrelevant search results, dubious information, and articles meant for scholars. Now? Abundant reliable information; original sources written in a language I knew; photos. It was blessedly easy. I wanted to know what kind of shoes women usually wore? When Band-Aids or an equivalent were invented? What types of appetizers or hors d'oeuvres might be served at fancy restaurants? Easy as a search and a few clicks. Of course, with such ease comes a certain danger that you might have guessed by now . . .

Con: There was too much information — so much that it was easy to get distracted.

Also known as:

Con: At one point, trying to figure out what my characters would eat for breakfast turned into a good twenty minutes researching the history of Grape-Nuts cereal . . . and then didn’t use most of what I learned.

(Fun fact: Grape-Nuts are partially responsible for the existence of the Andy Griffith show. I am not making this up and am still pretty amazed and amused by this fact. You can read about it here.)

Despite periodic research distractions, though, the writing continued to go astonishingly well. My characters were mostly cooperating, and while I did have a bit of a change of plans — enough so that I missed my June 1 deadline — it was manageable. By June 7, I had a full draft ready to send to both Kendra and betas. Also by this time, I’d developed a hearty appreciation for another benefit of my chosen era:

Pro: Finally, familiar technology!

For possibly the first time in my writing career, I could assume that many of the modern conveniences available to me would also be available to my characters. They had cars. They had telephones. They had flashlights. They had refrigerators — some of them, anyway. They had out-of-season fruit. It was magnificent. Except, of course, for one problem . . .

Con: I kept forgetting that said technology existed. 

(And that is the other reason why poor Bastian walks almost everywhere and forgets his camera that one time. I forgot he had another option. Sorry, Bastian.)

In between the end of the story were several rounds of edits, but those were actually easy compared to the madness that was editing Mechanical Heart. And now we come to today: story finished and published and available for all of y’all to read and enjoy. And the question arises: are the pros enough? Will I be back to this Jazz Age world?

Absotively. (And hopefully, you’ll come with me when I return.)

Are you excited for The Midnight Show? Do you think you would want to write a Jazz Age-inspired novel? What other time period do you think would be fun? Please tell me in the comments! And don't forget to check out the rest of the tour stops!
Thanks for reading!

August 29 Tour Stops

Dreams and Dragons: Pros and Cons of Writing in the Jazz Age
Five Reasons to Read:
Knitted by God's Plan


Guest Posts:
Cobonham: A Day in the Life of Dayo
Rachel Rossano's Words: A Day in the Life of Bastian
Abby's Blog: Like, But Not the Same
Character Spotlights:

Friday, August 28, 2020

Tattered Slippers Tour: Interview with Fionn of The Dark King's Curse!

It's the second-to-last day of the Tattered Slippers blog tour, and today we have one of the books I'm most excited about: The Dark King's Curse by my lovely friend Wyn Estelle Owens! This is a fabulous fae retelling of the tale, full of marvelous and colorful characters — one of whom I'm interviewing here on the blog today. But we'll get to that in a minute — first, as usual, a bit about the book and author.

About . . .

The Dark King's Curse

A darkness seems to hang over the lands of Conall, slowly but surely growing in strength with each passing year.

It all comes to a head when the twelve daughters of King Muir begin to disappear each night. None will admit where they go, and the only clue is their shoes; new in the evening, tattered and torn by morning.

When no one can stop the disappearances, Ailsa--lady-in-waiting to the youngest princess--volunteers to try and solve the mystery, or she and her peers will pay the consequences for failing to watch over their charges.

Armed with nothing but her gift of Fae-sight, Ailsa ventures forth on a quest to free her lady and the other princesses. With the help of an grumpy, glamoured gardener, a cursed faerie cat, and the mysterious Lord of Autumn, she may discover both the secrets and the truth behind the Dark King that lies at the root of the curse.

Find it on: Amazon || Goodreads


Wyn Estelle Owens

Wyn Estelle Owens is the penname of a young woman who’s still figuring out what this whole ‘adult’ thing is all about. She lives in a big, old house in Maryland by a Hundred Acre Wood (dubbed Neldoreth) with her parents, three occasionally obnoxious brothers, her dog Jackie, and her personal plot bunny, Joker.

She is fond of reading, writing, drawing, speaking in dead or imaginary languages, playing videogames, quoting classic or obscure literature, being randomly dramatic, and generally making things out of yarn. Her dream is to write stories that inspire people to chase after the wonderful world of storytelling.

Her favorite all-time authors are Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Christa Kinde, and above all, J.R.R. Tolkien, who first inspired her to pursuing novel writing when she read the Hobbit at the age of seven. 

Find her online at:  Goodreads || Facebook || Amazon

The Tattered Slippers

The Tattered Slippers are six retellings of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairytale, each one fantastical and magical. You don't want to miss any of them! You can learn more about the books and find the full tour schedule on the tour page.

The Tattered Slippers are the result of the 2019 Arista Challenge. The Arista Challenge is hosted by Kendra E. Ardnek; it invites fairy tale authors to come together in community as they work on unique retellings of a selected fairy tale.

Interview with Fionn

Welcome, Fionn! We're excited to have you join us here at Dreams and Dragons! To start out, can you tell us a little about who you are and what your role in the story is?

Ah, thank you for your hospitality. I’ve served as the royal gardener in Castle Greer for a hundred years, when I wasn’t fighting in the wars. Before that… was a long time ago, and doesn’t matter. As for my role in the story, I just got dragged along in this mess because that girl’s going to end up dead if someone doesn’t watch her back.

A reluctant hero! I like that. So, I'm already starting to get an idea of your answer to this question, but what are your thoughts on the other characters in the story? (At least, those you've interacted with or know about?)

The other characters? Simple. Laisren has better things to do than bother with a cursed man like me, if you mess with Siobhra do so with the knowledge you’re taking your life in your hands, and Ailsa needs to look before she leaps. She has the most irritating way of growing on you, too. Mairead’s a good friend, and she doesn’t deserve to suffer the pain a curse can bring. As for Fiachra... pretty much the same as Laisren.

Hmm. I know you're talking about others, but you seem a bit down on yourself here. Who would you say has had the biggest influence on your life thus far?

…Fiachra. And Laisren, because he’s been popping out of nowhere for a hundred years and bothering me. He’s a king and has responsibilities, I’m only dragging him down.

I see. What’s one thing that you think most people don’t know or don’t understand about you?

Well, there’s the fact that I’m not mortal. Most people don’t know that because of the curse. Otherwise? …I really like gardening. I’ve been raising flowers since I was hardly more than a child, so I’m glad that if I’m stuck here, it’s at least I’m doing something that I like.

Well, that is good. Speaking of gardening: if you were a plant, what kind of plant would you be and why?

A plant?... A thistle, I suppose. They’re strong, able to take care of themselves, not easily removed from where they belong.

Fascinating answer. One last question! If you could spend an afternoon doing anything you wanted with anyone you wanted, what would you do, and with whom would you do it?

Anything and anyone? …I’d like to work in my own garden, back home, I think… with my family. And I would like to show Mairead the flowers that I grew back then. And, I suppose, might as well bring Ailsa along. It’d be boring without having her around to tease.

Naturally. Well, I hope one day you get the chance to do just that. Thanks for answering my questions!

What do you think about Fionn? Are you excited to meet him and the rest of the cast of The Dark King's Curse? Please tell me in the comments! And don't forget to check out the rest of the tour stops!
Thanks for reading!

August 28 Tour Stops

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Tattered Slippers Blog Tour: Interview with Tricia Mingerink!


Hello, and welcome back to the blog for Tattered Slippers day three! Today, we are welcoming into the world Poison's Dance, the third book in Tricia Mingerink's Beyond the Tales series. To celebrate, I have another author interview for y'all, but first, a little bit about the book and author.

About . . .

Poison's Dance

Beyond the Tales #3
If he falls to the lure of the curse, the dance might trap him forever.

Alex has survived his first year as high king. The new counsel has improved cooperation between the kingdoms, and peace seems achievable. When the Tuckawassee queen sends him an invitation he can’t refuse, Alex must once again face his greatest threat for the sake of peace.

Princess Tamya of Tuckawassee, along with her eleven sisters, has danced from sunset until sunrise every night of her life. It is her gift and her curse. When Queen Valinda wishes to use the power their cursed dance gives them to rule all of Tallahatchia, Tamya must decide if she will do what is right even if it betrays her own sister.

Daemyn Rand has survived a hundred years' worth of battles. All he wants to do now is safely marry his princess. Will he be forced to choose between the love of his life and the high king he has loyally served for years?

They have faced certain death before. This time, they might not make it out alive.

Don’t miss this re-envisioning of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale.

Find it on: Amazon || Goodreads

Tricia Mingerink

Tricia Mingerink is a twenty-something, book-loving, horse-riding country girl. She lives in Michigan with her family and their pack of pets. When she isn't writing, she can be found pursuing backwoods adventures across the country.

Find her online at: Website ||  Goodreads || Facebook || Twitter || Instagram || Amazon 






The Tattered Slippers

The Tattered Slippers are six retellings of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairytale, each one fantastical and magical. You don't want to miss any of them! You can learn more about the books and find the full tour schedule on the tour page.

The Tattered Slippers are the result of the 2019 Arista Challenge. The Arista Challenge is hosted by Kendra E. Ardnek; it invites fairy tale authors to come together in community as they work on unique retellings of a selected fairy tale.

Interview with Tricia Mingerink

Hello, Tricia! Welcome to the blog! To start out, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Who you are, favorite hobbies (other than writing), favorite books (outside your own), coffee or tea?

I'm Tricia Mingerink, author of The Blades of Acktar (a Christian YA kingdom adventure series) and Beyond the Tales (a fairy tale retelling series). I live in Michigan, but I love taking camping trips throughout the United States, especially anywhere that has mountains and waterfalls. Other hobbies...reading, I guess. I don't have time for other hobbies right now, lol. Some of my favorite authors are K.M. Shea, Melanie Cellier, W.R. Gingell, and J.M. Stengl, just to name a few. Coffee or Tea? Neither. I'm a Mountain Dew girl all the way.

Ooh, I didn't know you were a fellow W.R. Gingell fan! That's so cool! Where did you get the initial idea for Poison’s Dance? And were there any other sources of inspiration along the way?

I had the idea for Poison's Dance all the way back when I was writing Dagger's Sleep (book 1 in the series). I love the 12 Dancing Princesses fairy tale and knew I wanted to retell it. The various versions of the 12 DP tale provided a lot of the inspiration. Some versions have the princesses poisoning or drugging the princes and soldiers who try to figure out why they are dancing. Sometimes princes end up stuck with the princesses dancing (and the princesses marry all the princes in the end). In some versions, it is a prince who discovers why they are dancing while in other versions, it is a common soldier. I took elements from many of these versions to craft my retelling, which has both a prince and a commoner figuring out the curse and trying to avoid being poisoned/drugged.

My other main source of inspiration is all the hiking trips I have done, which have provided lots of ideas for the setting of my books. Many of the waterfalls in Beyond the Tales are based on real waterfalls in the Appalachian Mountains.

What were some of the most challenging parts of writing this book, and how did you deal with those challenges?

The most challenging part was balancing the number of characters, since there are 12 sisters that I had to keep track of and develop to various extents. I also had to make sure the nights of dancing didn't end up feeling repetitive. In my first draft, I was so afraid of the nights feeling redundant that I cut a night. It ended up throwing the natural progression of the book off, and I added it back in during edits thanks to very helpful suggestions from my dad.

Ah, I love it when family is able to help with storytelling. So, almost any retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses will necessarily have at least some emphasis on music and dancing. Are there any particular songs that you associate with this book?

The soundtrack to the Barbie 12 DP movie, lol. The music in the Barbie movies is surprisingly amazing, and I adore that music of that one.

I will agree with that, honestly. At this point, you’re a pretty well-established and well-respected author in the Christian indie fantasy sphere. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in this sphere?

Make sure you do your research so that you can put out a professional book inside and out. Connect with other Christian indie fantasy authors and treat those fellow authors with respect. Be prepared to do a lot of marketing. And, most importantly, pray about your writing. You're going to hit a lot of walls of exhaustion and burn out and disappointment and struggles while writing. Pray that God gives you the strength to write the words that He wants you to write for His glory. 

That sounds like very good advice. As we get to the end of the interview, let's have a more fun question: if you could spend twenty-four hours with one of your characters from Poison’s Dance, either in their world or ours, who would you pick and how would you spend it?

I would want to go hiking through Tallahatchia with Daemyn, though I would probably want Rosanna along because that would just make it awesome.

Oooh, that would be fun. Finally, now that Poison’s Dance  is out in the world, what can we expect to see from you next?
Up next is book 4 in the Beyond the Tales series, which is a Goose Girl/Wild Swans retelling. I also have a Bluebeard/Robin Hood retelling that will be coming out as a novella sometime in 2021, though the details are a secret yet until I have the ok to share more.    
That sounds awesome! I can't wait to find out more about both of those, especially the Bluebeard/Robin Hood story! Thanks for sharing with us!

And thanks to everyone for reading! So, are you excited for Poison's Dance? Please tell me in the comments! And don't forget to check out the rest of the tour stops!
Thanks for reading!

August 26 Tour Stops

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Tattered Slippers Tour: Guest Post!: Worn Out Shoes but Not Worn Tales ft. E. J. Kitchens!


Hello, everyone! Welcome back to the Tattered Slippers blog tour! Today's release Wrought of Silver and Ravens by the lovely E.J. Kitchens, a truly impressive epic of a novel with very classic Twelve Dancing Princess vibes, yet many new twists. I have more thoughts over on my other blog, Light and Shadows, but here at Dreams and Dragons, I'm sharing a guest post from the author that I think you'll all enjoy. But first, a little about the book and author.

About . . .

Wrought of Silver and Ravens

Of Magic Made #1
The rarest magic is the most dangerous.

Athdar Owain is a hunted wanderer, one determined to keep his secrets and the treasure he carries safe at all costs. When he rescues the Kingdom of Giliosthay’s prince from raiders, he’s rewarded by being forced into the king’s elite Silver Guard. While this gives Athdar a temporary home and some protection from those hunting him, it also makes him responsible for the young prince, who still bears curses from the raiders, and seven enchantress princesses with curses as mysterious and dangerous as their brother’s.

Princess Thea of Giliosthay is a Realm Walker. Betrayed by a trusted guard, her rare gift of enchantment is used to curse her brother and trap herself and her six sisters into a nightly dance with dragons in a secret Realm. The Realm’s prince has the ability to take and twist her magic for his own purposes, and Thea fears what those might be. For when one dances with a prince, a kingdom might be at stake.

Athdar alone can save them, but to trust enchanters is to risk exposure. And Athdar isn’t sure where his loyalties lie.

Wrought of Silver and Ravens is a clean adventure-romance retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses set in The Magic Collectors story world.

Find it on: Retailers || Goodreads

E.J. Kitchens

E.J. Kitchens loves tales of romance, adventure, and happily-ever-afters and strives to write such tales herself. When she’s not thinking about dashing heroes or how awesome bacteria are—she is a microbiologist after all—she’s taking photos, reading, or talking about classic books and black-and-white movies. She is the author of the historical fantasy series THE MAGIC COLLECTORS and of several fairytale retellings. She is a member of Realm Makers and lives in Alabama.

Find her online at: Website || Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Newsletter || Amazon 




The Tattered Slippers

The Tattered Slippers are six retellings of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairytale, each one fantastical and magical. You don't want to miss any of them! You can learn more about the books and find the full tour schedule on the tour page.

The Tattered Slippers are the result of the 2019 Arista Challenge. The Arista Challenge is hosted by Kendra E. Ardnek; it invites fairy tale authors to come together in community as they work on unique retellings of a selected fairy tale.

Worn Out Shoes but Not Worn Tales

When I was young, my sister shared an illustrated fairytale with me that, though there was no Disney movie to go with it, I’ve always remembered. It was of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” There was no dragon to slay or evil stepmother to escape, just a mystery to solve as we followed an old soldier—one gifted an enchanted cloak and wise advice from an old woman he’d helped—in his attempt to discover why the twelve daughters of a king had worn-out dancing slippers every night. The tale was intriguing and the illustrations beautiful.

I don’t remember exactly which version of the story I read, but the "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" (also called "The Worn-Out Dancing Shoes" or "The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces") is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm and published in Grimm's Fairy Tales in 1812. As with many other fairytales, there are similar stories from other regions, including French, Russian, and Scottish versions (it’s a prince who dances every night in this version).

Also, as with other fairytales, it has many modern retellings. It’s a strange thing in a way to love something and then redo it, but I guess redoing something is another way to spend time with, so it makes sense in a way. Some aspects of fairytales are disturbing, however, and that gives us another reason to re-write them—to make them more acceptable or fun. In “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” the princesses are actually not very nice. They drug the princes trying to solve the riddle of the dancing slippers even though they know the men will die if they don’t solve it within the three-day limit set by the king. Not exactly the kind of heroines I’d want in my story.

One of my favorite retellings of the story is Lea Doue’s Firethorn Crown. She changes it up so that the princesses are kind and are forced to dance every night against their will. I preferred that approach, and so in my story, the princesses (only seven of them to make it easier to keep track of all my many characters) are cursed and forced to travel via magic to a mysterious Realm of Caves where a prince is stealing their magic and their kingdom dance by dance.

Remembering the illustrated story’s focus on the soldier rather than the princesses, however, I wanted him to be a major part of my book. Fairytale retellings tend to focus on the female character, in general, but I wanted the soldier in this one. I made him young and changed how he got the cloak. As I started writing him, I really fell in love with him and the story became a lot more about his adventures and his relationship with the Silver Guards as these older men take him—a wanderer who doesn’t trust others easily—in and give him a home and family. It has romance too—don’t worry—it’s just that I wasn’t expecting the other relationships to be so important.

My retelling, Wrought of Silver and Ravens, is part of a larger story world that I have other books set in, so that background also influenced the way I retold the story. For one thing, it’s set in a place like Ancient Greece, so instead of slippers, the girls have sandals, and instead of them simply being worn through, they are burnt because of how the prince is stealing their magic.

So retellings are often another way to enjoy something we love or an attempt to make it better, and there are lots of ways to change things—our character of interest, that character’s character, the setting, the overarching storyline—it is mostly the fairytale or is the fairytale simply a part of it?—and the aspects of the story we choose to pull out. So while dancing slippers (or sandals) may wear out, a fairytale rarely does.


Wow! Thanks for sharing that story, E. J.! I really enjoyed hearing about your journey with this fairy tale.

Are you excited for Wrought of Silver and Ravens? Do you prefer your 12DP retellings to focus on the princesses or the soldier-character? Please tell me in the comments! And don't forget to check out the rest of the tour stops!
Thanks for reading!

August 25 Tour Stops

Five Reasons to Read:
Knitted by God's Plan
Author Interviews:
Guest Posts:
Erudessa's News Blog: Favorite Fairytale Dances
Dreams and Dragons: Worn Out Shoes but Not Worn Tales
Rachel Rossano's Words: The Writer Who Pricked Her Finger
Reality Reflected: A Dance through Time
Live. Love. Read. + Mini Interview!

Monday, August 24, 2020

Tattered Slippers Blog Tour: Interview with Kendra E. Ardnek


Hello, everyone! Welcome to the first day of the Arista Challenge Tattered Slippers group release! Our first release of the week is Kendra E. Ardnek's The Dancing Princess, the latest addition to the Twist of Adventure series. And today, I have an interview with Kendra herself . . . but first, a bit about the book and author.

About . . .

The Dancing Princess

Plagued by nightmares for the last few years, Katrine only wanted answers. Instead, she finds herself trapped in a tangled web of melody as she tries to free a cursed king and his brothers. No one deserves existence such as theirs, but dare she risk her very life?

Find it on: Amazon || Goodreads







Kendra E. Ardnek

Kendra E. Ardnek is the self-proclaimed Arista of Fairy Tales. She lives in the Piney Woods of East Texas with her dragon babies and massive herd of mini-giraffes, and she is still waiting for one of of her fifty nutcrackers to come to life and marry her. When not writing, you can usually find her sitting in a random box, and she's frequently known to act before she thinks.

Find her online at: Website || Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Twitter || YouTube || Newsletter || Instagram || TikTok || Amazon 




The Tattered Slippers

The Tattered Slippers are six retellings of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairytale, each one fantastical and magical. You don't want to miss any of them! You can learn more about the books and find the full tour schedule on the tour page.

The Tattered Slippers are the result of the 2019 Arista Challenge. The Arista Challenge is hosted by Kendra E. Ardnek; it invites fairy tale authors to come together in community as they work on unique retellings of a selected fairy tale.

Interview with Kendra E. Ardnek

Hello, Kendra! Welcome back to the blog! To start out, can you tell us what gave you the initial idea for The Dancing Princess and what additional sources of inspiration you might’ve found along the way?

So, once upon a time, I wrote stories about fairies. I had a whole society built for them, drew pictures of them and everything. One of the fairies was a story fairy, and she was very upset because the fairy tales we tell are nowhere near the "real" versions. The Dancing Princess was one of the titles I had tossed about, and it was supposed to be one of the two that had merged into the 12DP we know and love. Buuut then Bookania came along, and that idea kinda faded? Eventually, as I was writing the Twists of Adventure, I remembered this one and thought it'd make a lovely addition. And then ... it went Russian.

Ooh, I love rediscovering old story ideas and making them work now. What were some of the most challenging parts of writing this book, and how did you deal with those challenges?

Probably the fact that I knew so little about the story going in. How I dealt with it? Um ... I let the story be what it wanted to be? Which was a Russian genderswapped reimagining.

I feel that. The Dancing Princess is the fifth book in your Twist of Adventure series. Do you have a favorite out of your books in this series? And will there be more Twists after this one?

I think I'm going to be eternally partial to Poison Kiss, as it was a hoot to write, there were so many references and call-outs, and I love its ending message. As for more Twists ... I'm not going to say a hard-and-fast no, but for now, I don't have any plans to complete the series. I'd had a B&B percolating - Fairer than Beauty - but the story just doesn't want to be written. Eventually, maybe, I'll think up some more zany, adventurous twists, but right now I'm focused on launching two new fairy tale series - my Jane Austen/fairy tale mashups, and then some Superhero reimaginings. That said, the Twists of Adventure canonically take place within Bookania - just not necessarily on the same page as the main Quests, and there miiiiiiight be some more direct connections down the line.

Fascinating! I look forward to finding out about those! Between Bookania, the Twists, and these Arista Challenges, you’ve become very strongly associated with fairy tale retellings. What advice would you give to others who want to write these types of stories?

Own your twist. Even if you're not writing a twisted tale, a retelling needs a good twist - even if it's just "Rapunzel's diary entries." Know what makes your retelling stand out, and have fun with it. Maybe someone else has already done it before, but you can take it in your own direction. People love retellings because they love hearing the story they know and love with a fresh perspective, so let them see your love for the tale.

And as a bonus ... don't retell Disney. Sure, they're iconic, but they're also ... copyrighted. A reference or two is fine, but focus on making the story your own - and there is so much potential in the original fairy tales and their families, it's not even funny.

I will second that last piece of advice. So, you’ve retold quite a few fairy tales, including some that aren’t especially well-known. But are there any that you really want to retell but haven’t gotten around to yet?

I really want to write a Nutcracker retelling. I have two planned, but it's just never felt like the right moment to write them. I keep getting distracted by Cinderella ideas, buuut, one of them is a Nutcracker/Cinderella mashup, so maybe I shall prevail?

I feel like I should've known that would be your answer, given your love of nutcrackers. Moving back to The Dancing Princess: this book includes a lot of emphasis on music and dancing, especially the former. Are there any particular real-world songs you associate with this book?

Not really? Just find some good Russian music and play that. Maybe the Russian Dance from the Nutcracker?

All right. Also, because we have to have a fun question in here: you get to spend twelve hours with the cast of this book. How are you spending that time?

I'm not sure, really? I think I'd like to go hang out with the king's book-loving brother and explore some libraries with him. We'll go with that.

Sounds like fun. Finally, now that The Dancing Princess is out in the world, what can we expect to see from you next?

This. Also This

Ah, very exciting! (For those who don't feel like clicking the links: that's The Merchant of Menace, Bookania #6, and Love and Memory, Rizkaland Legends #3. And I believe both of those have preorder specials on, though I could be wrong about that.) Thanks for answering my questions, Kendra!

What did you think of the interview? Which fairy tales do you want to retell or see retold? Which of the Tattered Slippers are you most excited for? Please tell me in the comments! And don't forget to check out the rest of the tour stops!
Thanks for reading!

August 25 Tour Stops

Friday, August 21, 2020

My Favorite Twelve Dancing Princesses Retelling (One Week Until THE MIDNIGHT SHOW!)

Hello, everyone! There's just a week and a day left before The Midnight Show releases into the world, and only a few days before the Tattered Slippers tour starts! Who else is excited besides me? On that topic, I have a bonus announcement that I think is really cool. Do you like signed books? Do you like signed books that don't cost extra money and don't require you to drive hours to crowded places in order to meet the author? If so, you'll be happy to know that if you buy a physical copy of The Midnight Show on release weekend (the 29th through the 31st) and send me some kind of proof of purchase, I'll mail you a signed bookplate to go in the book. Boom! You now have a signed book. (Please note — I'm still figuring out if I can do this outside the US or not, mostly because I'm getting mixed messages about whether or not I can actually send mail to people outside the US yet, because COVID. If you live outside the US and know the answer to "Can someone in the United States send mail to your country and have it arrive before 2025," feel free to let me know!)

Anyway. Moving on to the actual post. As y'all probably are aware at this point, the Twelve Dancing Princesses is one of my favorite fairytales ever, both to retell myself and to read retellings of. And, to celebrate the upcoming release tour (and my new book), I thought I'd spotlight some of my favorite currently-published retellings in today's post. Some of these you may be pretty familiar with already — I talk about them a lot — but others are more low-key.

Favorite Twelve Dancing Princesses Retellings!

  1. Entwined by Heather Dixon. This should surprise absolutely no one who's been following me for a while; Entwined is both my favorite 12DP retelling and one of my favorite fairy tale retellings in general. A focus on familial relationships, multiple sweet romances, a gorgeous hidden underworld, a dark tale woven through with light humor, a deliciously creepy villain with indisputable style — I've said this all before; it's everything I could want in a Twelve Dancing Princesses story. One thing I particularly like is that, despite the fact that this has probably the most romance out of any of the books on this list, it's one of the two in which it's most evident that it's familial love, not romantic love, that saves the day.
  2. A Branch of Silver, a Branch of Gold by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. This is a pretty loose retelling, but it's still wonderful and gorgeous. It's one of the darker books in this list, but at the same time, there's such a marvelous light to it (just as there is in all of the Goldstone Wood books). Again, the emphasis, in the end, comes out to sisterly love and loyalty — in fact, this is almost a nomance, there's so little actual romantic stuff in it. And the curse and its breaking are so dark and magnificent and mysterious — it's amazing. (Also: if you haven't read Goldstone Wood, you can still read this book! It's not part of the series, just the same world. There are things you'll recognize if you've read the stories, but none of the recognizances is essential to the story.)
  3. The City Beyond the Glass by Suzannah Rowntree. I actually featured this book on another list very recently: my favorite historical fantasy books. Technically, in terms of how much I like them, this and the next book on the list are about equal . . . but I'm putting this one higher for allegorical significance and writing quality. The City Beyond the Glass takes the two themes most often hit on by 12DP retellings — desire for freedom and love of family — and spins them out to explore them to their fullest extent. The result is an excellent story with a main character willing to do anything for her sisters (whether or not they want her to do it) and a subtle (or possibly not-so-subtle, depending) allegory. Props also go to the Glass Doge, the story's villain, for being pretty dang creepy, even if he doesn't have the style of some of the other 12DP villains.
  4. Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. This is the classic 12DP retelling in my mind, mostly because it's the first one I read. The story may not have the dark beauty or pack the emotional or spiritual punch as some of the others do, but it and its sequels are still pretty high up on my favorite fairy tale retellings list. Again, we have the sisterly loyalty and protectiveness, and we also have Galen, who I still think is pretty cool. I also appreciate the fact that it's something pretty unassuming that is instrumental in saving the day in this story. (Also, it's one of the only 12DP retellings I've found that really capitalizes on the potential of the meeting between the male lead and the old woman on the road! So that's cool.)
  5. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Mariller. First of all: kudos to the author of this book for not going the route of pretty much everyone else and making the dancing pavilion either secretly or overtly horrible. I love the creepiness potential in the pavilion and the different ways people approach that creepiness, but it's nice to see something different, y'know? To have it be somewhere that the sisters want to go and choose to go and that isn't trying to trap and/or kill them. While there are definitely some things that I think could be better (by which I mean that Tatiana is kind of an idiot at times and Jenica has her turn holding the idiot ball as well), there's still a lot to enjoy in this story.

What's your favorite Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling? Are you excited about the Tattered Slippers release tour? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 14, 2020

So You Need an NPC . . .

 Hey'a, everyone! We're down to two weeks before the I release The Midnight Show into the world! It's hard to believe it's so close; it seems not that long ago that I was trying to cram as much writing time as I could into the day in order to get it done in time to publish properly. Now, instead, I'm wrangling cover issues and waiting for the manuscript to get back from my proofreader. While I wait, I've been putting most of my writing energy towards my D&D campaign . . . which, at the moment, is about 50% making NPCs. Lots of NPCs. Honestly, NPCs (and other realifying miscellanea of D&D worldbuilding, like shops and monuments and non-plot-essential locations and such) are one of the most stressful parts of D&D-writing, mostly because it's such a delicate balance that I never know if I'm navigating properly. After all, I don't want to put a ton of effort into someone my characters may never interact with, but I also don't want to leave myself hanging by not coming up with enough info in advance, especially since it tends to be those NPC that make a D&D world  While I've used several different approaches, they all have their dangers . . . which is what I'm going to talk about today, mostly because, as I said before, it's consuming my life a little bit right now. With that said: so, you need an NPC . . .

So You Need an NPC . . .

  1. The easy way: Do nothing. Just improv. I'm told that some DMs have this as their default for non-plot-essential NPCs, and I'm pretty sure my DM is one of them . . . but how they do it, I don't know. This sounds like it's just asking to get stuck for a name and more at the worst possible moment. And, I mean, I could do what Matt Mercer suggests and have a list of possible NPC names behind my DM screen . . . but if I'm going to go to the trouble of prepping that, I might as well prep more. Right?
  2. The logical way: look at the scenario; see what it demands; go from there. Which, yes, is what practically ends up happening. Semi-significant shopkeepers get a name, a couple major physical characteristics, a few defining character traits or relationships with other NPCs for color, and maybe a note on background if it's relevant (for example, if the owner of a magic shop is a former adventurer). More important NPCs get more detail. Random guards or enemies have a note of their existence and no more. (Of course, sometimes this backfires and your players befriend the random guard they or even the random goblin enemy and the next thing you know, they're attached — which didn't happen in the campaign I run, but did happen in a campaign I play in. Said random guard and random goblin recently came back into the story for a bit with actual class levels.) Anyway. The issue with this method is that your imagination very quickly goes dry, at which point you have to supplement with another method. For instance . . .
  3. The tech way: Use an NPC generator. Yes, these exist. Fantasy Name Generators has one, and there are others you can find with a quick search. As it turns out, though, they're more time-consuming than they're worth. Trust me on this one; I once spent way too much time trying to use them to fill out a market's shops and stalls. For some situations and DMs, they might work, but they aren't for me.
  4. The writer way: Adapt characters from your other writing projects. This is my second-most common fallback for when I'm out of inspiration and need five more NPCs for tomorrow's session. I mean, I have all these characters just sitting around, and I love doing AUs anyway; I might as well put those habits to good use. Sometimes I even put those habits to good use by using them for semi-major recurring NPCs. Hey, it works.
  5. The sneaky way: D&D-ify your favorite fandom characters and wait for someone to notice. If anyone asks, it's an homage. Or a cameo. Or it never happened at all. But, yes, this is my number one way of getting unstuck on NPCs: start with a fandom character, AU-ify them, and then keep making modifications until it works. So far, these have ranged from "So subtle no one noticed" to "The only way no one's going to notice this is if they haven't read the source work." Most of the characters on the latter end of the spectrum haven't been introduced or encountered yet, though, so we'll see what happens if and when we get there.

And for those wondering . . . yes, this also applies to creating secondary and minor characters in novels and other linear prose, though numbers four and five are a little trickier to pull off in those scenarios. If you're a DM (or a writer), which of these methods do you end up using most often? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 7, 2020

Things I Want to See More In Steampunk (Plus: Mechanical Heart Book Birthday!)

Hey'a, everyone! So, in a turn of events that I didn't actually realize until yesterday (mostly due to preparations for The Midnight Show's release), today marks the one-year anniversary of Mechanical Heart's publication! As I did for Blood in the Snow, I'm putting the ebook version up for free from today until the ninth — and, yes, I made sure I set the promotion on the right book this time. If you haven't read Mechanical Heart, or if you just don't have the ebook, I invite you to go pick it up and check it out!

Much as I love the steampunk genre, there are some things that I think could be done better and some things that I think authors haven't explored as much as they could or should. And since most of the main characters of Mechanical Heart are all about finding things that could be done better or explored more, I thought that I'd use today's post to spotlight some of those things.

Things I Want to See More in Steampunk

  1. Non-European locations. A lot of steampunk — I'd even say most steampunk — takes place in some kind of modified Europe, usually the United Kingdom, usually London. But focusing everything on one continent, one country, one city, limits things way more than it should. Why not expand? Steampunk is all about exploration, after all. What does it look like in a modified India, China, or Australia? Plus, the steampunk age overlaps nicely with America's Wild West era — why don't we see more books taking advantage of that? After all, the one book I know of that does (Shannon Hale's Calamity Jack) is pretty awesome. Let's get some more of that going on.
  2. Non-Earth locations. While we're expanding and exploring, why not take a page out of Jim Butcher's book and leave Earth behind altogether? Steampunk is most commonly thought of as a historical fantasy or historical sci-fi crossover genre, but there's no reason it has to be. What might steampunk look like in other worlds or other planets? Or if you're really set on having some Earth influence here, well, steampunk portal fantasy might not be a thing yet, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be.
  3. More actual adventures. I don't know if this one makes sense to anyone else, but: a lot of steampunk is very focused on political and social intrigue and spying and secrets and so forth. Which is great! I love that! But I do think there are other stories to be told, and I think that you can have proper adventures within the steampunk genre. I mean, Jim Butcher did it in The Aeronaut's Windlass. Heather Dixon more or less did it in Illusionarium. Brandon Sanderson did it in his second Mistborn trilogy, especially The Bands of Mourning. So other people should be able to do it in other stories. This one could possibly also be translated as "You keep telling me there are airships, but no one ever goes anywhere or does anything in them. Fix that." (Actually, it might already be fixed, but if it is, tell me where the books are, please and thank you very much.)
  4. Speaking of Jim Butcher and airships: more stories that properly take advantage of the existence of airships. Otherwise known as: more airship pirates, airship captains, and airship battles, please and thank you very much. Again, for all that steampunk keeps insisting on airships, I have found very few books that actually capitalize on the potential that you have with airships. That goes double for airship pirates. And, look. Maybe this is somewhat influenced by the fact that I've been binge-reading Schlock Mercenary in my spare time (and some not-so-spare time), and it's definitely influenced by the fact that The Aeronaut's Windlass is one of my favorite steampunk books ever, but please give me more books in which well-written, daring airship battles legitimately can be and are a thing. (Seriously. Please.)
  5. And on that note, more stories that really lean into the science part of steampunk's sci-fi origins. By which I mean, stories where the science and gadgets of the steampunk world are more than just set dressing. I'm looking for stories where the main characters are actually involved and interested in the innovation of the world and where the science is a major part of the plot. And, yes, I know some of these already exist — Mechanical Heart is, in many respects, one of them — but I don't think I've found nearly enough of them.

What do you want to see more of in steampunk? Any recommendations of steampunk books that fill some of these holes? Please tell me in the comments! And don't forget to pick up your free e-copy of Mechanical Heart, if you haven't already!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)